The History of the Hash House Harriers
Article by Duncan Macgregor
(Singapore HHH 1979-80, Kuala Lumpur HHH 1980-81, The Hague HHH (1981-84), Jakarta HHH (1984-88 and 94-98)
Many of you may have wondered why the PESGB is associated with a ‘hash’ such as the one being organised in Guildford on 19th July. The story is long and complex but needs to be told, if not to dissociate the organisation from any association with drugs!
The origins of word ‘hash’ referred to rather plain but filling food and was particularly used by British soldiers and other expats in the 1930s (consider ‘hash brownies’). The notion of running as harriers, as a hare and hounds, following a paper (or now flour) trail, goes well back in British history and was practised at various barracks of the British army in what was then Malaya in the 1930s. In 1938 a number of such enthusiasts, led by a British accountant of Catalan descent, one A.S. Gispert, decided to hold a weekly Monday run to run off (or more likely accentuate) the excesses of the weekend and named the group after the down-market Chinese eatery in Kuala Lumpur that they met and watered at, which they nicknamed the ‘Hash House’. Their runs were patterned after the traditional British paper chase and ended with a longer session at this eatery, much to its owners delight. A hare was given a head start to blaze a trail, marking his devious way with shreds of paper, all the while pursued by a shouting pack of “harrier”. Only the hare knew where he was going…the harriers followed his clues to stay on trail. Apart from the excitement of chasing the hare and solving the clues, reaching the end was its own reward…for there, these thirsty harriers would find a tub of iced beer. Fitness was never a prerequisite and short-cutting has always been allowed, though often subsequently punished by a ‘down-down’, i.e. drinking a pint in one, sometimes while sat on a block of the ice used to cool the beer. The definition of hashing has indeed been often considered as ‘drinkers with a running problem’. Of course in Asia, we had drivers!
Such activities were of course terminated during the war, which unfortunately also saw the unfortunate demise of Gispert in the battle of Singapore. Apart from a “one off” chapter, formed in the Italian Riviera, (now the Royal Milan and Bordighera Hash), hashing didn’t take off until 1962, when a further group was formed in Singapore. From then on, the phenomenon started to grow, spreading through the Far East, Australia, and New Zealand, and finally to Europe and North America, where groups were generally started by returning expatriates, many from oil companies. Hashing experienced a large growth in popularity during the mid-1970s, when the first British hash was formed in Longmoor in Hampshire. By 2000, there were 1570 active hash groups known in 184 countries with some 200,000 members. This of course includes the ‘mother hash’ in Kuala Lumpur, and still, in many places, Monday is the traditional hash night. While the more ‘chauvinistic’ of the hashes still survive in various parts of the world, there are now many ladies hash groups (‘Hash House Harriets’), children’s chapters (‘Hash House Horrors’) and, of course, mixed hashes, including to my knowledge all European groups.
In 1990, an annual hash run was established by returning oil company expatriates (the ‘Oil Company Hash’), with the now sadly deceased Alistair McArthur (Mobil North Sea Ltd) as the ‘religious advisor’ (read assignor of above-mentioned ‘downs-downs’). Runs were generally held in Surrey, sometimes jointly with Guildford HHH. Sponsors such as Ranger and Phillips for some reason seemed to always get taken over after the event, so eventually ran out and the event has only been run intermittently over the last decade.
This year, the PESGB Surrey Branch in its 20th year, is proud to sponsor the 25th Oil Industry Hash run with HXB Oil and Gas Consultants Ltd. and Zinc Consultants. Key aims of the event are for it to be fun and all-inclusive. Runners will chase a ‘hare’ through the Surrey fields and woods following a flour trail, with barred and incorrect routes to navigate through on the way. The run will be approximately 5km long if the direct route is followed, though longer if you take the incorrect marked paths. Plenty of opportunities for stopping, to wait for keen runners to check out the route ahead, if you are feeling tired on the night. They will alert you to the correct route with the traditional hash call of “On, on!”
All runners will receive a free t-shirt, food and first drink. The event will start from and finish at the PESGB Surrey Branch pub, The White House, on a branch night. PESGB Non-runners are very welcome to attend and join in the revelry. The hash is one of the oil industry’s traditions and with your support we can keep these events going.
An assortment of Hash T-shirts (the less obscene ones), including an Oil Company Hash T-shirt supplied free in the days of more freer sponsorship